Hallelujah to a Sunday start… while a day off would have been nice, i’m not saying no to a day of being able to watch tennis without work getting the way! Here are the highlights from a pretty eventful day one. I’ve also included an awesome interview with Lucie and Rob in Doha. A feature post for Lucie’s first match will go up on Moo’s Tennis Blog tomorrow!
Karolina Pliskova’s last three sets… 1-6, 1-6 and 1-6. In another concerning loss, she was completely outplayed by Margarita Gasparyan. While the Russian player had a super day, she encountered very little resistance from Pliskova. When she’s down, Pliskova has a tendency to just hit harder and harder with little thought about building the point. Her serve was very inconsistent, hitting just 44% of first serves in and 6 double faults including one down match point in a listless final game.
Eugenie Bouchard saved two match points to survive an entertaining first round tussle with Anastasija Sevastova, 5-7 6-3 7-6(4). When Sevastova went up a set and a break it looked like it might be over quickly but to her credit, Bouchard showed plenty of staying power. Even down 0-4 in the third set, commiting a torrent of unforced errors, she just about hung on. I really do like Sevastova’s game but she didn’t do a great job of frontrunning this match. To be fair, she got unlucky with a call on match point that would have seen her victorious; a baseline ball from Sevastova was called out, late, and AFTER Bouchard had hit her shot into the net. Sevastova successfully challenged but the umpire ordered to replay the point…
Saisai Zheng recorded her second win in a week over Varvara Lepchenko, 6-2 7-6(6), needing TEN match points to get over the finish line. Lepchenko’s performance was much like my TennisTV stream… intermittent and unstable. She frequently struggled to find the court, going wide so many times, particularly on the forehand side. The court favoured Zheng’s more defensive game although she did come up with a couple of sweet winners in extended rallies. A mixture of controlled hitting from Lepchenko and tightness from Zheng prolonged the match; the Chinese player twice failed to serve it out at *5-4 and *6-5 and then nearly let slip a 6-1 lead in the tiebreak. Lepchenko battled well from a losing position but was never able to keep it together when she was on level terms.
Daria Kasatkina continues to impress as she came through her first round match against Qiang Wang, 6-1 2-6 6-3. It was a very enjoyable match; after an error-strewn opener from Wang, she came back in style in the second set. The turning point in the second was Kasatkina failing to take advantage of a *0-40 opening down 2-4. Kasatkina came back in the third set, hitting a trio of wonderful passing shots and generally playing much more positive tennis. I’m falling in love with Kasatkina’s game… she’s so smart around the court. I can’t wait for when she becomes more confident in her game and manages to maintain a more aggressive gameplan on a consistent basis. Kasatkina plays Roberta Vinci or Lesia Tsurenko in the second round… definitely winnable.
Question… what is happening with Anna Karolina Schmiedlova this year? The Slovak player has won just two matches all year and went down in straight sets to Yulia Putintseva, 2-6 4-6. Her serve seems to have completely disintegrated; I don’t know what has happened since the end of 2015 but the second serve is such a liability and it seems to be feeding into the rest of her game. I actually went for AKS to reach the quarter-finals this week in Doha – we’ve seen a lot of players snap out of dire runs this year, take Errani just last week, and I thought she might do it with her draw. It proved to be a poor decision on my part. Schmiedlova’s issues seem to be quite deep right now and will require a serious amount of mental fortitude to turn it around… I hope she does because her game is great to watch when on song.
Andrea Petkovic continues to dominate her head-to-head with Ekaterina Makarova, winning her fourth consecutive match against the Russian player, strolling through, 6-3 6-2. I can’t quite understand this H2H but it seems that Petkovic has the answers to all the strengths in Makarova’s game. Furthermore, Makarova has really gone off the boil and hasn’t won a match since the Australian Open. Petkovic moves forward to a very intriguing second round match against Gasparyan… tough to pick out a winner in that one!
TennisTV had Gigi Salmon, Lucie Ahl and Guy McCrea on the commentary for Sunday and I believe for the rest of the week too. I like their enthusiasm and have always been a fan of Guy’s commentary. It’s definitely better than last year where we had Jason Goodall and Robbie Koenig for Doha… while they are great at the ATP, their lack of enthusiasm covering WTA was evident.
Lucie’s first match of the year will be against Cagla Buyukakcay in the second round. Here’s a fab video of Lucie and Rob…
Doha looks niceeee!